The ABU Garcia 6000 and 5000 reels from the 1962 Garcia Fishing Annual.

Today in Garcia Baitcasting 1962 we’re going to start a short series on the bass offerings of the famed company for the year 1962.  At this time, the ABU 5000 reel had only been in the United States for 18 years, but in that time had changed the complexion of casting reels forever.

The ABU reels, although heavier than the comparable reels from Shakespeare, Pflueger, and Langley, offered way more in castability.  I remember talking to my friend Stan Fagerstrom about his first encounter with the reels in 1955.  Stan attained two of the first ABU 5000s in the west.  His words to me were:

“They were twice as heavy and bigger than the reels I’d been using.  I thought they might be good salmon or steelhead reels.  But the first time I cast them I knew they were a winner.  When the rep came back into the office, I told him I wouldn’t give them back to him.”

ABU’s engineering was what allowed them to move from an unknown entity in the U.S. and into the lead with respect to the best casting reel on the market.  Their reels provided two types of cast control, a mechanical spool tension knob and centrifugal brakes that ran against a race within the headcap.  The reels also offered an anti-reverse mechanism as well as a well thought out drag system.  No more using the thumb as a brake.

What set the ABU far and away ahead of the competition, though, was the freespool mechanism.  In past designs, freespool was provided by either moving the main gear out of sync with the pinion gear by pulling out the handle, or some other method.  With the ABU, freespool was accomplished by pushing a button that would move the pinion gear away from the spool shaft.  This allowed the spool shaft to rotate inside the pinion gear, its ends being supported by polished brass bushings.

The spool was also lighter than most contemporary reels, providing less inertia to get the spool moving.  This allowed for casting lures as light at 1/4-ounce without a problem.  The spool also came in two configurations, a shallow spool for lighter line and a deep spool for heavier line or when extra capacity was needed.

Another engineering claim held by ABU was they said lines as light as 4-pound test could be used on the reel without fear of the line getting trapped behind the spool.  I know from experience this is false, having had 6-pound line get caught between the spool and the sideplate.

Another attribute of the reel was its easy takedown by three knurled knob screws located on the headplate.  This made for easy change of spools or the takedown of the reel itself.  No longer was a screwdriver needed and no lost screws.

But ABU didn’t stop with the fishing-centric reels.  Back in the 20th century, casting clubs and competitions were a big deal internationally, and ABU had their own competition casting reels.  The 2100 and 2300 Tournament Reels were some of the best mass-produced competition reels ever made.  Built with even more precision than the red-series reels, these gems came with hand-made and balanced magnesium spools for decreased inertia and longer casts.

The reel also featured a quick takedown by the use of knurled knobs on the end plate, instead of the faceplate.  The endplates were made of brushed aluminum and the 2100 had a black plastic spacer between the endplates and the reel frame.  The 2300’s faceplate was one piece and the spacer on the end plate was polished aluminum.  These were not reels for the novice caster.  They were ultra fast reels made specifically for casting competition.  Today these reels list anywhere from the mid-$200s up to over $1000 if with box, parts kit, and case.

For the angler looking for a rod to put this reel on, back in the mid-1950s when the reel was introduced, steel and bamboo rods were still popular, although tubular fiberglass was making its presence known.  By the early 1960s, fiberglass had replaced the old guard, and Garcia had its own line of glass rods.

The ABU Garcia 2100 and 2300 Tournament Reels from the 1962 Garcia Fishing Annual.

Garcia got on the bandwagon with glass shortly after the end of World War II, buying the rights to the Conolon Rod company around 1948.  Initially started by Dr. Glenn G Havens of NARMCO, Conolon Rod Company had developed a proprietary method in which to produce tubular glass blanks.

In any event, by 1962, glass was the in material, and rightfully so.

Garcia Conolon rods from the 1962 Garcia Fishing Annual.
Garcia Conolon rods from the 1962 Garcia Fishing Annual.

The problem with rods of this day wasn’t the material the blanks were made of, which was much lighter than either bamboo or steel, but the components placed on the rod itself.  Namely the handle and guides.  Handles were still made of steel and aluminum and provided more than half the weight of the overall rod.  Guides were made of carboloy or chrome-plated brass, adding even more weight.  Couple this with the metal ferrule that attached the rod to the handle and there’s even more mass to contend with.  Place the 10.5-ounce reel on the 10-ounce rod and you had a good workout after a full day’s fishing.

Garcia’s rod selections for 1962 were broken down into 5-Star, 4-Star, and 3-Star series rods.  The 5-Star being the highest quality.  Let’s look at what these rods had to offer the angler.

5-Star:  Agate guides, double wrapped guides, high-grade cork, butt cap, and a cloth bag to hold the rod.  The rods came in two-piece and one-piece configurations, not counting the fact that each rod had to be fit into the pistol grip handle.

4-Star:  Guide were chromed stainless steel, high-grade cork, and came in two- and one-piece configurations.

3-Star:  Not much is mentioned as to what’s on the rods except the guides, and they were a cheaper make than the 4-Star rod.

Comparing the rods from Garcia with the rods from the other companies like Heddon, Shakespeare, and newcomer Fenwick, the rods were about the same quality, weight, and cost.  To fish one of these rods back in the day was to have the top-of-the-line equipment in your hands.  Thank God for technology.

That about does it for today’s post.  Tomorrow we’ll look into the spinning gear for those who were infatuated with the Mitchell series spinning reels and then we’ll end the series by posting the entire catalog.